WASHINGTON — The first suicide was in 2007. Mike Little was preparing to head to Iraq for a year when he heard that his close friend, a National Guardsman who had inspired Little to join the military, had killed himself.
The second was before Little deployed to Afghanistan, about two years later. He couldn’t go to the funeral because he was due on a plane. The next three came during the naval reservist’s yearlong deployment in Afghanistan. Another suicide happened just as he got home, in late 2010. He’s up to nine now.
“At this point, I’m taking it personally,” he said. “I deployed twice, I came home, I struggled. I feel responsible that I didn’t reach out to them. Maybe if I had …”
Little, a petty officer 2nd class in the Naval Reserves, fought his own battle with suicidal thoughts and won, as much as any person still struggling with depression and post-traumatic stress can say they’ve won.
He has trouble sleeping. He calls the Veterans Crisis Line almost weekly.